[ecis2016.org] With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing customer experience centres to remain shut, we examine how brands in home interior industry can take their brand experience online and reap the benefits of increased customer engagement
The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an era of hybrid work models, shutdowns and plummeting toplines. It shook up businesses worldwide, as uncertainty paralysed small and large corporations alike. Business leaders were left scouting for succour in an unpredictable scenario.
For businesses with an offline or hybrid model, the pandemic-induced lockdown posed many more life-threatening challenges. However, technology played a redeeming role in these turbulent times, as it pushed the envelope for companies to speed up their journey towards digital transformation.
The impact on offline models
With curbs on the movement of ground forces, many companies simply could not operate during this period. This was a harsh reality for industries that relied on physical experiences, to sell their products. Among these, is the home interior industry, whose customers could no longer visit company outlets (or experience centres, as they are called) and get a first-hand experience of design collections, materials and finishes on display. These experience centres are critical to showcasing the company’s design USP and building a brand experience that matters.
It became impossible to conduct in-person meetings, crucial for companies in the industry where building relationships with potential customers is a critical business metric. Although customers began interacting with designers online and via phone calls, there was nothing to differentiate between an interior design brand and a local designer.
A large part of the brand experience is generated through the interactions that designers have with clientele at the experience centres. These centres showcase affordable home interior design collections and the company’s USP – space-saving solutions. However, these centres had to stay shut during the lockdowns.
This was why it became imperative to take the brand experience to customers in the safety of their homes.
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Moving processes online
Here are a few ways brands can innovate their models/processes, to ensure business continuity in spite of turbulent times, such as the pandemic:
- Shoot a virtual walkthrough of your experience centre: An experience centre is at the heart of the touch-and-feel experience offered to customers. It showcases a brand’s design collections and technical expertise. It is here that companies display the best of their offerings. It also allows customers to get up close and personal with the quality of your product. So, to ensure your customers do not miss out on the touch and feel experience during the pandemic, we suggest shooting a virtual walkthrough video, enabling them to experience their new kitchen or living room, without being physically present in it.
- Develop an e-marketing collateral for your business: Consider creatively showcasing your products or services digitally, to recreate the brand experience for your customers who have no choice but to remain at home. A concise, yet, informative initiative could inspire and motivate your customers. It is also a great way to inform them about your design innovations and the latest trends in the interior design space.
- Use virtual meetings to keep customers informed and engaged: Shift as much of your customer-centric processes online, as possible. This will allow you to serve your customers with their safety in mind. Regular virtual meetings with your customers will help establish a bond that will last you beyond your financial relationship.
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The present and future
We need to remain mindful of the various challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, we should continue to conduct presentations and iterations online, where possible. Sharing e-catalogues with customers, enables them to make choices from the available options, is imperative. There is an urgent need to rethink processes from the customer’s perspective. The result could be reduced turnaround times (TATs), which could help your business.
This shift towards conducting most of the business online has the following benefits:
- Increased customer awareness.
- Lesser time spent on face-to-face interactions, as customers are more knowledgeable about what they want. This leads to faster decisions.
- Reduced TAT for customers.
- A shift in technology in terms of design presentations.
- Increased brand reach among many more customers in a short period.
- Improved sales experience rating.
- A fall in post-meeting/proposal-sharing dropout rate.
(The writer is co-founder and CEO, Design Cafe)
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